Coming off a crushing loss to end the 2021 season, the Indianapolis Colts left fans with that feeling of disappointment once again following a Week 1 tie with the Houston Texans. While it’s par for the course from a franchise without a season-opening win since 2014, it raises concerns about the team.
A lot went wrong for the Colts on Sunday. Without linebacker Shaquille Leonard, the defense failed to live up to the hype in the first year under defensive coordinator Gus Bradley. Things were arguably even worse for an offense that entered the season with even higher expectations.
Here are five takeaways from the Indianapolis Colts Week 1 opener.
Indianapolis Colts not going away from Jonathan Taylor
The Colts’ coaching staff talked a lot this offseason about wanting to cut down on the number of touches Jonathan Taylor received after a crazy workload (372 touches) in 2021. Indianapolis knows that overworking a running back can wear them down and shorten their career.
However, their actions showed something completely different as Taylor finished Sunday with 35 touches. While the Colts will certainly mix up how often they use Taylor, it says something that they depended on him this much and still couldn’t win. He is certainly the team’s best player and he is vital to the Colts making the playoffs. The pace is he at right now, though, isn’t sustainable and there will be long-term consequences if it continues.
Related: Indianapolis Colts schedule
The offense is concentrated just like last season
Last season the Colts’ offense was solely focused on Taylor and Micahel Pittman Jr. So far, nothing is different in 2022. Pittman (13 targets) was the only player to receive double-digit looks from Ryan and he finished with nine catches for 121-yards and one touchdown. Taylor was second on the team with seven targets. He ended the game with a combined 35 touches, 175-yards, and one touchdown. It appears this offense, again, will mainly center around these two offensive players.
Cover-3 looks an awful lot like Cover-2
Colts fans grew tired and irate of former defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus’ Cover-2 defense. The cushion that the defensive backs routinely gave the opposing wide receivers ample opportunity to pick up the first down. Once Eberflus left for Chicago, Indianapolis brought in Bus Bradley and his Cover-3 defense. On Sunday, we saw a lot of similarities to the same problems.
Related: NFL defense rankings
Well, the defense allowed a 42-yard flea flicker from Davis Mills to Brandin Cooks on the very first play of the second half. Besides that big play, this defense also allowed four other plays of 10-yards or more. They also failed to recognize that the aforementioned Cooks is the best pass catcher for Houston. He caught six of 11 targets for 73-yards.
For comparison, only Rex Burkhead had more than five targets. Coincidently they are the only two players with the most NFL experience on the offense. Hopefully, going forward, this defense will do a better job of keying on the opponent’s best players.
Indianapolis follows through on increase role for Nyheim Hines
One of the most prominent reports out of Colts’ training camp was the intention to make Nyheim Hines a more prominent piece of the offense. While Taylor is the focal point of the ground game, Indianapolis recognizes that Hines is a special weapon as a pass-catching back. In fact, teammate Michael Pittman Jr. said Hines’ peers view him like a receiver.
We saw that on display in Week 1. Hines caught all six of his targets, turning them into 50 receiving yards. While he didn’t make much of an impact on the ground, Reich knows precisely how Hines can be the most effective offensive weapon. Expect to see more box scores like this from Hines in the future.
Concerning issues for Matt Ryan in Colts’ debut
Many weren’t pleased with the Colts’ debut of quarterback Carson Wentz in 2021. Indianapolis suffered a season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks, scoring just 16 points in more than 70 plays. Things weren’t much better for Ryan on Sunday.
- Matt Ryan stats (Week 1): 352 passing yards, 1-1 TD-IT, 83.1 QB rating, four fumbles
- Carson Wentz stats (Week 1, 2021): 251 passing yards, 2-0 TD-INT, 102.0 QB rating, one fumble
Related: NFL QB rankings
The fumbles and ineffectiveness inside the red zone are certainly worrisome. Perhaps more concerning, issue with the exchange between Ryan and center Ryan Kelly. It will need to be a point of emphasis in practice before facing the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.
Another thing that needs to be cleaned up is Reich’s play calling. The trick play on the first red-zone trip was not a good idea. And personally, I didn’t like his decision to punt on fourth and one, just short of midfield. I understand the logic behind it. However, it’s just not the call I would have made. All in all, this is not the kind of start the Colts wanted or were hoping for. Hopefully, this week’s performance is not a foreshadowing of things to come for the remainder of the season.